British Comedy Guide

I can't write endings...

Avatar

Haydn Rees

  • Monday 19th November 2012, 6:32pm
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 3 posts

I have problems writing endings. Or at least funny endings. This may be universal. I don't know; I'm new at this.

Does one start with a punch line and work back or develop a funny
situation and riff?

Example: Protagonist with 'Police Clairvoyant' High Visibility Jacket
approaches Police Cordon. Officer on duty keeping back the looky-loos stops
him.

Protagonist: "Suits me. Sometimes the only way I get an afternoon off is to
turn up ten minutes before you call me."

Protagonist walks into a Novelty High-Vis Jacket Shop called "High Risibility Jackets" and asks for his money back. The shop assistant points him to a sign "Management accepts no responsibility for patrons not being funny."

Obviously, I'm over-thinking this, and projecting my condition onto the sketch. Either that or I'm just not funny.

Avatar

Jason Simmons

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 10:40am
  • Kent/London boarders, England
  • 127 posts

Do what works best for you. You can start at the end if that helps and then backwards engiheer your idea from there. It's sometimes useful to do this if you have a joke that's too wordy.

I.e. work out what the punchline is and then what the audience have to actually know to get that punchline.

For example you might have the punchline 'rotted to the core.'

so you could write a set up to go with that idea:

They say an apple a day keeps the Doctor away. Unless it's rotted to the core.

Not the best of examples I know (that was the only inspiration in front of me) but, hopefully you get the gist of it.

Other good tips are to write a premise (set up) and then challenge yourself to write 10 punchlines to that set up.

All the best,

Jason.

Avatar

Haydn Rees

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 11:18am [Edited]
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 3 posts
Quote: Stylee TingTing @ November 19 2012, 10:10 PM GMT

The thing about not being able to write endings is that you need a beginning and a middle before you


So you're saying never write the punch-line first? Good to know. Thanks. That actually answers my request for a rule about the conception and structure of joke-writing.

Or is Stylee TingTing waxing aphoristic at my expense?

Quote: Jason Simmons @ November 20 2012, 10:40 AM GMT

Do what works best for you. You can start at the end if that helps and then backwards engineer your idea from there. It's sometimes useful to do this if you have a joke that's too wordy.

I.e. work out what the punchline is and then what the audience have to actually know to get that punchline.

For example you might have the punchline 'rotted to the core.'

so you could write a set up to go with that idea:

They say an apple a day keeps the Doctor away. Unless it's rotted to the core.

Not the best of examples I know (that was the only inspiration in front of me) but, hopefully you get the gist of it.

Other good tips are to write a premise (set up) and then challenge yourself to write 10 punchlines to that set up.


I would probably try to approach such a punch line as an evil Royal Marine Surgeon handing out poisoned apples, managing to be simultaneously rotten to the core, and rotten to the Corps.

AvatarBCG Supporter

StephenM

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 12:28pm
  • London, England
  • 862 posts

Personally speaking I approach endings differently for different types of sketches.

For quick sketches or ones with a build to a big finale the punchline / ending is the most important part of the sketch. For those I'd start with the ending and work backwards to get there. The ending is usually a twist or reveal to get there.

For other sketches (usually longer ones) where the important thing is to set the premise up early I'd start at the beginning with the premise then work out how to develop it or make it more and more absurd.

So, in short, I think I (usually) start with the most important part of the sketch and build from there.

It is important a sketch does have an ending, even if it is just a sign to the audience the sketch has finished. A year or so ago I was worried about endings so paid particular attention to TV and Radio sketch shows to see how they do it. It's amazing how many sketches don't end well. Some just peter out and few end on a high. In fact if you think of some of the great sketches it's surprisingly how few have a big finish.

So perhaps a good sketch doesn't necessarily need to have a barnstorming ending. It may be enough to conclude it in a fashion that it keeps the audience happy rather than pushes them up one more level.

Avatar

Lee

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 12:48pm
  • Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
  • 36,350 posts
Quote: Haydn Rees @ November 20 2012, 11:18 AM GMT

So you're saying never write the punch-line first?


How can you even conceive a joke without a punchline? It's not always the case you need the punchline first but I would've thought the punch would be the concept of the idea you're trying to write.

Avatar

Jinky

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 3:20pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 783 posts
Quote: StephenM @ November 20 2012, 12:28 PM GMT

In fact if you think of some of the great sketches it's surprisingly how few have a big finish.


Here's a game you can play at home. What ended with......

- Confusion over whether the shop was in Bolton or Ipswich?

- Billhooks?

- An animation of a policeman failing to sit in a chair?

- A vague promise to get in touch by phone sometime in the future?

And here's the answers...

(Dead Parrot/Four Candles/Spanish Inquisition/One Leg Too few)

What does this prove? I don't know.

Avatar

Shandonbelle

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 5:44pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 6,571 posts
Quote: Lee @ November 20 2012, 12:48 PM GMT

How can you even conceive a joke without a punchline? It's not always the case you need the punchline first but I would've thought the punch would be the concept of the idea you're trying to write.


I do this all the time.

Not trying to be vague but I don't think there are any set ways to go about it, sometimes the sketch plays out in my head and just sort of writes itself. Other time it's a word or phrase that comes to mind. For topical stuff it's a bit harder as it's more about searching for a funny angle on the news etc.

An example of one joke I wrote that did well was 'my killer heels were arrested for murder and my handbag was charged with being an accessory'...this came about by thinking of 'killer heels' and building around that.

Avatar

sootyj

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 5:46pm
  • England
  • 51,287 posts

Excellent joke shandy

Avatar

Steve Sunshine

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 6:37pm
  • Dagenham, England
  • 14,672 posts

I think with a joke you would need to have an idea of the ending/pay off the majority of the time.

Sketches not so much.
as they don't all rely on a punchline.
Jinky giving some good examples there.

Avatar

Shandonbelle

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 7:42pm
  • England
  • 6,571 posts
Quote: sootyj @ November 20 2012, 5:46 PM GMT

Excellent joke shandy


Thanks, am proud of that one as it earned me £50 squids.

Avatar

Steve Sunshine

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 7:46pm
  • Dagenham, England
  • 14,672 posts

I remember liking & retweeting that one
What did it win?

Avatar

Shandonbelle

  • Tuesday 20th November 2012, 7:48pm
  • England
  • 6,571 posts

Comedy Highlight...whatever happed to that?? I came runner up with or was it to? your good self and some fella called Tony Cowards :)

Avatar

bushbaby

  • Tuesday 4th December 2012, 1:51am
  • England
  • 3,502 posts

The ending always refers to the beginning

Avatar

vyabsley

  • Tuesday 4th December 2012, 2:03pm
  • Northern Ireland
  • 7 posts
Quote: bushbaby @ December 4 2012, 1:51 AM GMT

The ending always refers to the beginning


Or the beginning can be written as a means to reach the ending.

Avatar

sootyj

  • Tuesday 4th December 2012, 2:04pm
  • England
  • 51,287 posts
Quote: Shandonbelle @ November 20 2012, 7:42 PM GMT

Thanks, am proud of that one as it earned me £50 squids.


How did it earn you 5o squids?